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Cholesterol Explained in 500 Words

Overwhelming research shows that consuming cholesterol – rich saturated fats does not cause heart disease.

by Lauren

Cholesterol is a healing agent in the body. Cholesterol levels rise during stress and when it is needed to aid a healing process. The body sends cholesterol from the liver to damaged tissue for repair. When the cholesterol is no longer required for tissue repair, it returns to the liver.

Cholesterol travels to the artery to repair inflamed tissue, but it does not block the artery. If the inflammation is not addressed, then polyunsaturated fats and plaque form an arterial block. Inflammation, not cholesterol, causes heart disease.

Overwhelming research shows that consuming cholesterol-rich saturated fats (1 2)  does not cause heart disease. Interestingly, low cholesterol levels are:

  • correlated with a higher risk of cancer (1)
  • correlated with criminal acts of violence and suicide (23)
  • correlated with a higher risk of mortality  (456)
  • correlated with a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (78)
  • correlated with a higher risk of depression  (910)

LDL is not simply bad cholesterol. Heart-health expert Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride makes the analogy,

Because [LDL] cholesterol travels from the liver to the wound in the form of LDL, our “science,” in its wisdom calls LDL “bad” cholesterol. When the wound heals and the cholesterol is removed, it travels back to the liver in the form of HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Because this cholesterol travels away from the artery back to the liver, our misguided “science” calls it “good” cholesterol. This is like calling an ambulance traveling from the hospital to the patient a “bad ambulance,” and the one traveling from the patient back to the hospital a “good ambulance.”

LDL cholesterol is not created equal. Dense, small, heavy LDL particles are correlated to an increased risk of heart disease. Large fluffy LDL particles are not. Consuming cholesterol-rich foods like eggs and butter raises the ratio of benign fluffy LDL particles to dense LDL. For about 2/3 of the population, cholesterol-rich eggs are shown to have no effect on blood cholesterol levels. For the other 1/3, it raises cholesterol levels – by raising the benign HDL and the particle size of LDL (11,12).

Some foods like canola oil, touted by the American Heart Association as cholesterol-reducing, actually worsen the cholesterol profile. These foods reduce the beneficial fluffy LDL and the healthful HDL cholesterol (13). Vegetable oils also create dangerous oxidized LDL, which can build up in the arteries (14).  

Cholesterol-rich saturated fats are nutrient-dense and a foundational component of a healthy diet. Saturated fat raises HDL cholesterol, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is correlated to a mild increase in the benign, fluffy LDL (15, 16). Research shows that saturated fat intake from old-fashioned fats like butter are beneficial, not dangerous, to heart health.

There is no correlation between dietary saturated fat intake and heart disease (17). Cholesterol is a nutrient required for health.

Unprocessed, whole-food sources of cholesterol, including butter, egg yolks, and seafood are time-honored foods that have nourished humanity for millennia.

Source: Empowered Sustenance